I represent women who are effected by DV. Did you know that 1 in 3 women are living with physical violence in their own homes on a regular basis, and 1 in 5 with sexual abuse.
This is not acceptable. The cost to the community in resources alone consumes $14 billion of tax payers money yearly throughout Australia.
I am one of those statistics of 1 in 3 to experience Violence against Women.
Where did it all start, well I was a young 16 year old girl who had dreams and goals just like anyone else. I came from a very loving family where I was the oldest of four children consisting of 2 girls and 2 boys. I can only remember my parents having one serious argument and this was a silly one, my dad came home just before Christmas and he had one too many drinks with his work mates, this was a very rare occasion as my dad didn’t drink but my mum didn’t take too kindly to it. There was a war with words and it was soon over without any violence or threats.
So you may ask how does someone go from a very loving close family to being involved in Domestic Violence with absolutely no history of it. I was headstrong and met the man who was to become my husband through friends. He was everything I could ask for, handsome, smart, worked hard and 5 years older than myself. We started dating and things were pretty good as things became more serious I started to see the cracks which should have been a huge red flag to me, but not having experienced anything like this before I made excuses for his behaviour. We became engaged and were only two weeks out from the wedding when he really lost it. From memory it was over something very trivial but I would wear the bruises from this until only a couple of days before the wedding. He grabbed me by the hair and pushed me up against the wall where he moved both of his hands to my throat and just kept squeezing until I thought I would pass out. This resulted in me having to wear high necked jumpers for the next several days. My thoughts were what did I do wrong and I mustn’t let my dad see this. My biggest thought was my parents have paid for all the wedding I cannot pull out now. I remember thinking as I walked down the isle if this doesn’t work out I can always get a divorce, knowing full well that only one person in our family had ever been divorced and I would feel so much like a failure if this was to happen so I had to give it my best shot. This I did for the next 11 years.
You wonder how does a normal, Independant woman go from being very focused and driven to being totally controlled by a bully. Well it doesn’t happen overnight, it is a gradual thing which starts with them cutting you off more and more from your family and friends so that they have more control of your life.
Where you never know what mood they will come home in or what very minor thing will trigger the violence. Each time the violence happens it becomes more violent and more often.
At the time that this was happening to me it was not something that was talked about. I was totally ashamed, embarrassed, and very much alone as I had just lost my father at the very young age of 41. And by this time with two young children.
Now it is not hidden under the carpet and there are support groups.
During this 11 years we had two children together.
The most dangerous time in the relationship is when the decision is made to end the relationship and you leave, as then they have nothing to loose. Hence we now have at least one death per week in Australia due to family violence. This was no different for me. It takes real courage to leave a relationship like this.
Jan Milne is a media advocate with the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service.
Her personal experience of family violence drives her passion to advocate on behalf of all women and children affected by violence and abuse.
Like more than one third of Australian women, Jan has lived with family violence. She grew up in a close and loving family and had never been exposed to family violence. As a young woman, Jan was headstrong, intelligent and independent. She met her former husband, five years her senior, through friends. He was everything she could ask for: handsome, smart and a hard worker.
Cracks started to form early in the relationship, but because Jan did not understand family violence she made excuses for his behaviour. Despite serious physical and psychological violence and abuse, Jan knew that if her marriage ended in divorce she would feel like a failure. Jan told herself she had to give it her best shot. She did this for 11 years before Jan made the courageous decision to leave.
Thirty years on and Jan is now happily married to her soul mate. They own and operate a successful business. Jan is also an accomplished author.
Jan is now an ambassador for White Ribbon, has spoken at many conferences and appeared on Channel 10 and Channel 7 supporting this cause.
Jan, like other Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service media advocates, has a powerful message to share with the greater community. Her story makes change possible so that every woman can live without constraint, in complete safety and to reach their full potential.